To connect on a regular basis to your body is to return to the source of your own truth.
When you listen to the messages your body gives you by way of sensation, when you move your body in ways that nourish the organs, fluids, bones, tissues, emotions, and mind— when you take dedicated time to really be in your body— you offer yourself the opportunity to find the truth that radiates from your very cells.
This is real power.
The Chinese internal and martial arts, including tai chi, qigong, and kung fu, are disciplines that are designed to bring you back into the body, to re-sensitize you to the body’s language, and to inspire you to see the information your body gives you as Intelligence of the highest order.
A little clarification on the differences of the disciplines:
Kung Fu, (pronounced gong fu), also spelled Gongfu.
Focused practice given forth over time, to cultivate excellence in one’s art. This is one of my favorite terms of all time, and it applies to any aspect of life one makes their art. In the martial arts sense, kung fu is the full-power, full-speed style of offensive and defensive movements. It can be used as self-defense, as a method to understand one’s body, as a fitness practice, and as a way to learn compassion and vulnerability, especially when practicing partner work.
Tai Chi (tai chi chuan), also spelled Taiji Quan.
Tai chi translates to mean Supreme Ultimate, or Supreme Polarity, which describes the Yin and Yang theory of change and relativity. Quan, as in taiji quan, means “boxing,” or as Master Sing Chui would say, “fist.” A form of Chinese martial arts, the movements are directly applicable as defensive or offensive. Tai chi is practiced slowly to steady the breath and the mind, with gracefulness and intention, while also cultivating qi (pronounced chee), which is Life Force-- energy.
Qigong (pronounced chee-gong), also spelled Chi Kung.
Since the word qi means energy, qigong translates to “cultivation of energy.” As opposed to tai chi, qigong movements aren’t necessarily martial; instead, they’re specifically designed for the purpose of circulating, harmonizing, and cultivating qi within the body. The movements are practiced slowly, using the breath. Qigong is a healing internal art and can be incredibly potent.
These ancient practices and theories are the basis by which you can begin to cultivate whole body health— a wellness that reaches deeply into your physicality and beyond, enriching your mind, your heart, and your spirit.
In tai chi, qigong, and kung fu we move the body as a connected whole, with intention. We learn to increase and manage energy sensitivity and we practice active silence and stillness.
In kung fu the stillness of mind is the necessary foundation from which to spring forth the fullest expression of the movements. In qigong there are some forms in which it seems as though one is standing completely still, and though they may hold this stance for many minutes, the movement taking place inside the body can be tremendous.
Even in the seemingly motionless trunk of a massive tree there is an infinitely flowing dance of subtle movement.
In the practice as in life, the subtleties are what serve as the basis for discovery.
By attuning yourself to the subtle vibrations of your body rhythms, you open yourself to the immeasurably vast expanse of information about what you need to be the best version of yourself you can be— not just so you can feel better, but so that you can better serve the world.
Clarity, creativity, balance, discipline, strength, wisdom— these are some of the attributes one can cultivate here. Equally as important, if not more so for this day and age, we use the disciplines of tai chi, qigong, and kung fu as a mode toward acknowledging, allowing, and understanding our emotions— all emotions.
To learn to honor and appreciate our own fear, anger, arrogance, worry, grief, and anxiety— that is the work that truly reaches into the depths of personal potential for real health.
As we navigate the spectrum of sensations, the practice begins to reveal the hidden messages in all those feelings— the ones in the body and the ones in the heart, the mind, the spirit.
The tree stands not in resistance to the lightning that may strike around it, but in witness to it.
When we stand witness to the disruptions of our life circumstances, we can choose to feel the emotions they bring up, and in deciding not to run from them and also not to indulge in them, those feelings can move through.
When we allow emotions to move through us, we avoid their potential for getting stuck within us, which is one of the greatest sources of illness and disease. By seeing emotions as what Master Zhenzan Dao calls, “the weather,” we can let them flow in and out of our experience rather than clinging to them with our very resistance to them.
Our emotions become our teachers the way the sun and the rain, the wind and thunder are masters of change and grace in the physical world.
One way to move your focus from the realm of the mind and get yourself grounded in the physical world is to move the body.
I’ve made a Warmup Lesson Film for you, and even if you’ve never practiced the Chinese internal or martial arts before, this is something with which you can follow along.
The sequence of movements takes about 16 minutes and is designed to stretch, open, and warm the body in preparation for tai chi, qigong, or kung fu practice, as a way to start your day, or as an enlivening practice to boost your energy at any time.
I invite you to learn how to listen to the intelligence of you own cells, for they are your best guidance toward understanding and cultivating what it is you need to be your best you.
And if you have a spare minute to help me out, I’d be so very grateful if you shared this with a friend who might like it. Every little “psst!” makes a big difference.